The enterprise has re-emerged today in areas where it had disappeared

Sericulture is part of the cultural heritage of Mysore district.

This is because the region's climatic factors aid abundant growth of mulberry trees that are the prime source of food for silkworms. Today the trees are being cultivated on more than 2,000 hectares in Mysore alone.

Several farmers in the region who rear silkworms generally purchase 10 day old worms (technically referred to as 2nd moult) from chawki rearing centres (CRCs) and rear them for the next 30 days in their homes.

“Usually farmers rearing silkworms construct a shed either behind their homes or in some adjacent open place near their dwelling. Maintaining good hygiene, temperature, humidity, and constant supply of tender and healthy mulberry leaves are some essential inputs for good growth of the worms,” says Dr Arun Balamatti, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Suttur, Mysore.

But avoiding pests and diseases infesting the young worms being reared in the farmers home itself becomes difficult and that is where chawki rearing houses step in.

The word ‘chawki’ refers to young silk worms reared from hatching to second moult stage. The quality of these worms forms the crux of successful silkworm rearing. It can be compared to growing crops in the nursery first before planting in the main field.

In the nursery, the young crops are taken care of by maintaining a low temperature, giving right nutrients etc so they grow well without getting infested with pests or diseases.

Similarly, the aim of chawki rearing is to produce good quality healthy worms for the farmers.

If the chawki worms are not reared properly, the later stages will result in crop losses. Hence, it is the most crucial period of silkworm rearing. “Despite this fact, there were hardly any CRCs operating in Mysore district till 2006. KVK Mysore introduced three chawki rearing centres in two districts, Mysore and Chamarajanagar, in 2008.

All the three CRCs have completed one year successful operation chawki rearing and supplying the worms to farmers. Two of the three CRS are being run by farmers’ SHGs, whereas the KVK is directly managing one CRC.

The three CRCs put together generated 2,520 man days of employment. With this kind of engagement in CRCs, each SHG member is able to earn between Rs. 1,000 to Rs.1,500 per month, which works out to a total of Rs. 1,26,000 a year,” explains Dr. Arun.

It may be noted here that this is an additional income for those involved in chawki rearing since it is only a part-time work for the members, involving about three hours of work a day. Further, it provides an incremental contribution to the silk industry through increased cocoon yield which is worth Rs.78,00,000.

This apart, the CRC as a seri-enterprise has witnessed innovations like uniform hatching, institutional innovations like participatory chawki management by farmers’ SHGs (self help groups), and use of indigenous techniques in temperature and humidity management.

Inspired by the success of these three CRCs, an additional three CRCs have already started working in the same areas.

What is heartening is that in the traditional dry land sericulture areas like Kuderu in Chamarajanagar, where sericulture had almost disappeared due to poor monsoon and irrigation facilities, the enterprise is re-emerging.

“The success of CRCs is due to the firm conviction of the host institution, JSS Mahavidyapeetha, which believed that this was possible, and hence supported the initiative taken up by both the JSS and KVK as an additional effort under a special project,” says Dr.Arun.

He explains: “For those who want some quick reference as what benefits a chawki can offer: It provides healthy worms, ensures better cocoon yield. Disease is significantly reduced, through black-boxing technique, and the CRCs ensure uniform hatching of eggs and saving rearing time for farmers thus reducing their overall production cost.”

For more detailed information interested readers can contact Dr Arun Balamatti, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Suttur, Nanjangud taluk, Mysore-571129, email: jsskvk_1994@rediffmail.com, Phone: 08221-232218; Fax: 08221-232377; mobile: 09448832186.